Fear and loathing on the red line

I love the Moscow metro and have written many a paean to it. It’s the perfect place to people-watch, deep in the belly of the city (or on its shallow ends, on the way towards the suburbs), among the marble. The metro goes on and on – it’s the pale, long arms of Moscow, stretching out into the region, wanting to grab more and more.

It can also be pretty fucking annoying, and most of my annoyance as of late has concentrated on the Sokolnicheskaya line, otherwise known as the red line. It’s not entirely fair – Sokolnicheskaya was suicide-bombed in two places a little over a year ago, and expecting this particular metro line to radiate positive energy may be bit a much to ask. But ever since the Park Kultury station serving the brown, or Circle line, shut down for repairs, much of the excess traffic trying to reach Park Kulury has to go through Sokolnicheskaya. And if this particular line was busy before – now it’s ridiculously busy, and the trains move slowly between stations, groaning along, and every once in a while they screech to a halt inside the dark tunnels, and you fight down panic, because panicking won’t help.

But in general – Sokolnicheskaya at this time appears to have the biggest concentration of douchebags. Visibly pregnant woman steps onto the train, and the douchebags all busy themselves with their iPhones and iPads, trying very hard to pretend they don’t see her. When people do give up their seats, they’re more often than not middle-aged women, who probably know how hard it is to keep your balance while pregnant and riding the metro and are ashamed to be surrounded by the douchebag hordes. Of course, the second you go to sit down, the brakes are slammed, so you have to keep very hard from going flying into the lap of some napping granny. That’s just how it goes.

The stations along Sokolnicheskaya hardly make any of it up – since they are not beautiful (Lubyanka in particular is like a tomb of the ancients – but not in a cool way). I mean sure, Sokolnicheskaya still looks good when compared to the horrors of urban metro networks in various other world capitals – and Kropotkinskaya station in particular has an air of understated grandeur about it – but still. The two Moscow metro lines I consider “mine” – green Zamoskvoretskaya and yellow Kalininskaya – are way, way cooler by comparison (Zamoskvoretskaya does easily beat the competition because it contains Mayakovskaya, which is pretty much an artwork in functional form, and stepping on its shiny platform fills me with joy – but short little Kalininskaya does have its gems, Aviamotornaya and its 1980s club-look in particular). For all of the hassle Sokolnicheskaya entails, it just doesn’t feel like it’s worth it.

The scary thing is, I know I’ll miss the red line once I go on maternity leave. I’ll miss it, and then I’ll return to it, and it will start pissing me off all over again – in the spirit of a true dysfunctional relationship.

6 thoughts on “Fear and loathing on the red line

  1. Thanks for this. I’m a Moscow-born, California-raised college student who speaks Russian at home, sings Russian songs, visits Moscow sometimes, and loves the subway system (except for the silliness of the fact that you can’t travel around the periphery of the system – you have to go through the center), and it’s wonderful to hear about my home city from a perspective I can identify with. (Same goes for your other posts.)
    (I found your blog through Feministe, btw.)

  2. The periphery thing is annoying, though I think that eventually, the metro will resemble a spiderweb. Ploschad Ilyicha allows some periphery travel now, as well as Proletarskaya, Kuntsevskaya, Sevastopolskaya and Kashirskaya. Also, the light rail in the north, I hear, is pretty convenient. I’m just hoping that now Dmitry Gayev has been replaced as head of the metro – things will get better. Maybe? False hope?

  3. Your story about all the men ignoring you on the subway reminds me of a story my grandma told me about riding the light rail when she was pregnant with my dad–in 1950s midwestern America, supposedly such a time of chivalry–there was a train full of men, and absolutely none of them would give her a seat for the full ride downtown. So she just stood there for the duration.
    People can be assholes to pregnant ladies.

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